The Surrey Eagles have struggled since clinching a BC Hockey League playoff spot last month, and those February stumbles continued last week, as the Semiahmoo Peninsula squad dropped three games – though all of them were by just a single goal.
On Friday at Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre, the Birds fell 3-2 to the Chiefs, and on Saturday lost a wildy entertaining, back-and-forth 7-6 tilt on home ice against the Langley Rivermen. On Monday – wearing throwback uniforms to honour the organization’s title-winning teams of the late 1990s – they dropped another 3-2 contest to the Chiefs, this time in overtime.
The team has lost seven straight since clinching a playoff spot in on the Jan. 20-21 weekend, and have picked up just a pair of points for two overtime defeats.
“Obviously, we’re in a slump right now, but we’re remaining positive,” Surrey Eagles head coach Brandon West told Peace Arch News. “We can’t forget that we have a good team here.”
In all three losses, Surrey had oppportunities to win, West noted, but the team didn’t capitalize on their chances while their opposition did. That was no more apparent than Saturday night, when the Rivermen scored on five of seven power-play opportunities – including one five-on-three advantage.
“We’ve had a good penalty kill all season. The hockey gods just weren’t on our side (Saturday),” West said.
“Against Langley, we had enough chances to win, but full credit to them – they played a great game and took advantage of their chances.
“In all three games, we had stretches where we played really well, but just found a way to lose.”
Injuries have taken their toll lately, too, West added.
The team has been playing without “four, five, six” regulars since Christmas, and often affiliate players have been hard to come by to fill out the roster, he said. It leads to the coaching staff over-taxing those who remain.
“I’m replacing tired players with tired players,” he said, adding that he didn’t expect to have any injured players back for this weekend’s two games.
Saturday’s game wasn’t without its offensive highlights, however.
The Eagles took a 3-0 lead after just 11:34 of the first perod, before the Rivermen stormed back with four unaswered goals of their own. The teams traded goals the rest of the way, witht he Rivermen escaping with the one-goal win.
John Wesley had a five-point night – scoring his 34th goal of the season while adding four assists – and Ty Westgard had two goals and two assists.
Though mired in a seven-game slide, West insisted the team’s early clinching of a playoff spot had not led to his team taking it easy and perhaps not playing as hard as they had prior.
“No, no, not at all – we’re out here trying to win hockey games, and there was a point (after clinching a playoff spot) that we were in first place, so we’ve never taken our foot off the gas pedal.”
The Eagles will have an opportunity to break out of their losing streak Friday, when they host the Prince George Spruce Kings at South Surrey Arena. On Sunday, they’ll play the Penticton Vees, also in Surrey.
“The number-one thing for us right now is we just have to work harder to get through this. It’s not going to be easy – there are no easy games from here on out,” West said.